A commentary on Iran

The Iranian nation is one which continues to be paradoxical in the way it runs. The role that history adopted through Persian Nationalism, and Shi’ism play in defining Iran’s policies cannot be underestimated. The Iranian nation is modern, vibrant, and educated, with a rich history. They had an empire well before the British and its territory stretched far and wide. However they are now a diminished state, yes still powerful in the region which continues to splinter along sectarian lines, but not a worldwide player as they once were, and yearn to become. They are the world’s only official theocracy, and the state has almost unlimited power in what it can do to its citizens, and even ex-presidents.  The Guardian Council not political parties or the people themselves decide who can run for election, even those elected representatives who find themselves elected have limited power in the face of the Supreme Leader who controls the Military, media, the justice system, the mosques, and of course the supreme leader has to validate the president’s domestic agenda. The Supreme Leader is the final arbiter of power in Iran.

The theocrats stole the revolution for themselves and created a theocracy built on nationalist verve and a severe dislike of the West. The exiled Khomeini travelled back from Paris with a hero’s welcome, and thus the Islamic state was born. Just like many revolutions, the tyranny they shook off, they soon resurrected. The Iranian republic soon started taking advantage of the security service structure which was in place by creating a new security service known as ‘SAVAMA’, and restrictions began being put into place on what was and wasn’t acceptable in the new theocratic ‘republic’. The reality is the Iranian republic started breaking its own constitution pretty much as soon as they had written it. Indeed, the human rights abuses haven’t stopped, and despite the promises of President Rouhani to end political oppression their looks to be no end in sight.

Iran is in reality a state sponsor of terrorism. They’re funding of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Bashar Al-Assad’s presidency is something which shouldn’t be tolerated in the region. These groups aren’t just freedom fighters who sometimes take their own rhetoric too far. Hamas especially has a consistent track record of torture, war crimes,  racial hatred, and the murder of their own populace. The Iranian constitution provides a foreign policy objective for the Iranian state, one of which is to ‘protect the rights of all muslims’. The Iranians have always argued that they view Hamas, and Hezbollah as ‘liberation’ groups, and will continue to support them within the confines of their constitution despite their records of abuse spanning years. Their recent support of Bashar Al-Assad’s killing spree on the Syrian people is just another indictment on the Iranian government’s seeming blase attitude towards their constitution, and Muslim blood being spilt for the ‘correct’ causes.

All of the above is a pretty damning indictment of an apathetic attitude towards their constitution, human rights, and lives at home and abroad. Which brings me to the nuclear agreement which has finally been thrashed out by America, and Iran. Iran also has a bad record on informing authorities about their nuclear programme. They hid a nuclear programme, and nuclear plants for years up until 2002, and have consistently denied access to nuclear sites which the I.A.E.A have requested to inspect. The only iota of trust everyone has to go on is the promise of the Ayatollah that nuclear weapons are ‘unislamic’ and they would never develop them. However if this is the case why hide nuclear plants? Why deny access to the IAEA? Iran has a long-standing history of not listening to UN resolutions on these matters, and not co-operating with the regulatory body.

Sanctions brought Iran to the negotiation table and have in the end nailed down an agreement which hardliners in Tehran, and Washington aren’t happy about. The hardliners in Tehran don’t want greater co-operation with the ‘great satan’, and hardliners in Washington feel this is giving Iran too much in this deal. The agreement gives Iran the right to develop nuclear energy peacefully which was their main objective, in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty doesn’t give them the right to develop a nuclear weapon.  There are provisions on Uranium enrichment across the board, specifically mentioning Natanz, and the Arak heavy water facility, which negates risk of a nuclear weapon if the Iranian regime play ball. While sanctions are lifted if the Iranians don’t conform to the agreement then there is a relatively easy method to reintroduce them. The IAEA will also have a long-term presence inside Iran which will make monitoring facilities relatively easy. You may be asking what does Iran get out of this deal? Well they get sanctions relief which has been crippling their economy, a growing relationship with the United States, and a growing influence in the region where ISIS, and Al-Qaeda are seen as the chief priorities to defeat.

While this deal is rightfully being hailed as a step forward we need to tread carefully. This deal has stopped the chance of nuclear weapons proliferation in the region, which is a necessary step towards regional security. Saudi Arabia just need an excuse to make an atom bomb and they will, now they don’t have it. It brings Iran in ‘from the cold’, while Iran has many problems, these can realistically only be solved if Iran is in the fold rather than isolated internationally. Iran can also be useful in the fight against ISIS, they have a strong presence in Iraq, and in Lebanon with Hezbollah. However, we need to tread carefully. I don’t believe in an alliance with Iran, for the reasons which I have outlined earlier in the piece. Iran cannot be seen as the ‘least worst’ nation in the Middle East, and they cannot yet be seen as a realistic viable partner for long term regional security. The nuclear accord is a big step forward, but with Iran’s history of about turns, support for terrorism, and a volatile domestic scene it’s too early to tell if this agreement will lead to a successful outcome.

Our policy now must be to start promoting human rights in Iran, and the region as a whole. This agreement with Iran is a good first step in restricting their access to a weapon of mass destruction, however it cannot be the final step. Renewed co-operation over the years can result in pressure for Iran to become more free, democratic, and secular. In decades to come we will look back in shame at our partnership with unmentionable thugs and criminals masquerading as sovereign governments.  Human rights and legitimate government are the only path which will  solve the Middle East crisis. Until we recognise that fundamental truth, everything else will be a sticking plaster.

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